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Tactics and tropes of the antivaccine movement

I’ve been an observer and student of the antivaccine movement for nearly a decade now, although my intensive education began almost seven years ago, in early 2005, not long after I started blogging. It was then that I first encountered several “luminaries” of the antivaccine movement both throughout the blogosphere and sometimes even commenting on my blog itself. I’m talking about “luminaries” such as J.B. Handley, who is the founder of Generation Rescue and was its leader and main spokesperson; that is, until he managed to recruit spokesmodel Jenny McCarthy to be its public face, and Dr. Jay Gordon, who, although he swears to high heaven he is not antivaccine, sure could have fooled me. At the very minimum, “Dr. Jay” is a credulous apologist for the antivaccine movement; at the worst, he is practically a card-carrying member. Then there were many more through the years: Barbara Loe Fisher, Sallie Bernard, various bloggers from the antivaccine crank blog Age of Autism, and even the new generation of antivaccine activists, such as Jake Crosby, who is, if anything, even more annoying than the old generation.

Why am I mentioning this? The reason is simple. Over the years, I think I’ve come to learn just about every antivaccine trope, canard, strategy, and argument there is. At least, I know all the major ones, nearly all of the minor ones, and even quite a few of the obscure ones. As a result, I’m rarely surprised anymore, even when of late antivaccinationists have taken to referring to supporters of science-based medicine as “vaccine injury denialists,” a term antivaccine activist Ginger Taylor notably used in “The Role of Government and Media,” a chapter in the anti-vaccine book Vaccine Epidemic: How Corporate Greed, Biased Science, and Coercive Government Threaten Our Human Rights, Our Health, and Our Children, which was edited by Louise Kuo Habakus and Mary Holland. Now, Taylor uses the term frequently on her blog in a hilarious bit of Pee-Wee Herman-like, “I know you are, but what am I?” (That actually might be a topic for another post entirely.) So when I see people writing about the tropes and tactics favored by the antivaccine movement, I know I’m quite qualified to judge whether they know what they’re talking about or not, as I’ve spent nearly a decade in the trenches on Usenet and in the blogosphere.

Anna Kata of McMaster University appears to know what she’s talking about.

Kata is the author of a recent article in Vaccine entitled Anti-vaccine activists, Web 2.0, and the postmodern paradigm – An overview of tactics and tropes used online by the anti-vaccination movement. Her opening sets the stage:

Vaccinations are a significant public health achievement, contributing to dramatic declines in morbidity and mortality from vaccine-preventable diseases [1]. However, by reading certain websites, one might be persuaded to think the opposite – that vaccines are actually ineffective, useless, or even dangerous. These are merely some of the arguments posed by the anti-vaccination movement, an amorphous group holding diverse views that nevertheless shares one core commonality: an opposition to vaccines. The popularity and pervasiveness of the Internet today has facilitated the transmission of such beliefs.

Many people search online for health information, and the information found impacts patient decision-making; it is therefore essential to understand what is shared online. This paper provides an overview of how the new generation of the Internet (Web 2.0) and its emphasis on user-generated content has combined with characteristics of the current postmodern medical paradigm, creating a new environment for sharing health information. The anti-vaccination movement has taken advantage of this milieu to disseminate its messages.

She immediately launches into a discussion of how Web 2.0 has proven to be a two-edged sword in medicine. While, as I’ve discussed before, paternalism is on the decline and medicine is moving towards a model of shared decision-making between the physician and patient, a process facilitated by the availability of more high quality information about health on the web than has ever been so easily available before, that movement can easily be hijacked by the dark side of Web 2.0. While 20 years ago, medical knowledge was largely bound to textbooks, journals, and medical institutions, today, not only is it available on many websites but even the primary literature is in many cases available to the public, thanks to laws requiring that NIH-funded research be deposited in PubMed Central and that clinical trials and their results be deposited in ClinicalTrials.gov. Unfortunately, the power of the Web 2.0 to empower patients is also the power to confuse and misinform. As Kata points out, postmodern attitudes, in which science-based medicine is just “another way of knowing” can combine with new “expert systems” in which people without advanced training come to think themselves just as much “experts” as the real experts. Although Kata doesn’t mention it, it’s the Dunning-Kruger effect writ large, the arrogance of ignorance.

Kata also correctly identifies most of the common tropes and tactics of the antivaccine movement. First, the tactics:

  1. Skewing the science. This involves cherry picking studies, denigrating science that doesn’t support an antivaccine viewpoint, and endorsing bad science that supports antivaccine agendas.
  2. Shifting hypotheses. Otherwise known as moving the goalposts, this involves continually changing the standards of evidence deemed necessary to convince antivaccinationists of vaccine safety so that they can’t be met and constantly coming up with new causation hypotheses that share only one thing in common: it’s always about the vaccines.
  3. Censorship. This is an extreme characteristic of the antivaccine movement. For instance, Age of Autism does not allow dissenting comments. The Autism One yearly quackfest routinely kicks out those its organizers perceive as enemies, even though they follow the rules and don’t disrupt anything. In the meantime, they go absolutely–if you’ll excuse the term–apeshit when one of their own is asked to leave a scientific function. We’re seeing this in action right now, as AoA and its hanger-on Ginger Taylor are both going nuts over Paul Offit’s and Seth Mnookin’s having asked AoA’s one trick pony irritant to leave and Offit’s accurately characterizing him as a “stalker.” I’d take their complaints slightly more seriously if the antivaccine movement didn’t so ruthlessly censor its perceived enemies and refuse to let them anywhere near their crank venues.
  4. Attacking the opposition. The antivaccine movement is particularly incessant in this tactic, in my experience. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve been attacked or had antivaccine cranks try to cause me annoyance at my job by e-mailing my bosses. A year and a half ago, a bunch of antivacicne cranks, “inspired” by a false accusation of an undisclosed conflict of interest from Jake Crosby, tried to get me fired from my job through a campaign of e-mails, phone calls, and letters to the board of governors at my university. And what I’ve experienced is minor indeed compared to what someone like Paul Offit has experienced.

One tactic I think Kata left out is one that I’ve noted before. It’s not a tactic unique to the antivaccine movement, but antivaccinationists certainly use it. I’m referring to crank conferences gussied up to look like legitimate scientific conferences. For example, we have the yearly quackfest known as Autism One every year in Chicago around Memorial Day. Recently, Autism One has joined forces with the health freedom movement, combining an Autism One conference with the Health Freedom Expo from March 2-4, 2012 in Long Beach, CA. In this, we might be seeing an even more obvious sign of the scientific bankruptcy of antivaccinationists in that Patrick “Tim” Bolen will be featured on a “Vaccine Panel.” I thought that having Dan Olmsted chair a panel called Malfeasance in the Media that includes Tim Bolen, David Lewis, and Andy Wakefield was bad enough. After all, that’s a group that could give the masters’ how-to-do-it course on media malfeasance.

Oh, and “movie night” is going to feature the Burzynski movie, as well.

Now, here are the tropes:

  1. “I’m not antivaccine; I’m pro-safe vaccines.” Yes, indeed. This one is the biggest, baddest, most irritating trope of all, repeated by everyone from Jenny McCarthy to J.B. Handley to Barbara Loe Fisher. A variant of this is to liken vaccines to cars and say that “I’m not ‘anti-car,’ I just want safer cars.” Not a good analogy. A better equivalent would be if they demanded absolute safety of cars and refused to use them unless GM, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota, Honda, et al swear that they’ll never be injured in a car crash.
  2. Vaccines are toxic. A.k.a. “the toxin gambit.”
  3. A demand for absolute safety.
  4. A demand for absolute “proof” that vaccines are safe.
  5. “Vaccines didn’t save us,” one of the more intellectually dishonest of many intellectually dishonest tropes used by these cranks.
  6. Vaccines are “unnantural.”
  7. Choosing between “vaccine injury” and disease. Jenny did this famously when she said vaccination are a choice between autism and infectious disease and that she’d take the measles.

Kata lists more of these tropes, and this is one case where I can’t think of any that she missed, at least not major ones, except for perhaps the recent coopting of the term “denialism” for their own, as Ginger Taylor does when she uses “vaccine injury denialist” as a trope. Kata also didn’t emphasize the concept of “misinformed consent” enough, in which under the guise of “informed consent” antivaccine pseudoscience is used to make vaccines seem more dangerous and less effective than they actually are.

Kata closes by remembering a famous quote by J.B. Handley, in which he likened Andrew Wakefield to “Nelson Mandela and Jesus Christ all rolled up into one,” after which she concludes:

Such a statement is a reminder that finding common ground with those who question, fear, or crusade against vaccines is no easy task. Their arguments are constantly shifting and evolving – this has been furthered by the fluidity of the Internet and social media. While acknowledging and correcting flawed arguments is important, an approach that moves beyond providing “the facts” is likely needed. With the anti-vaccination movement embracing the postmodern paradigm, which inherently questions an authoritative, science-based approach, “facts” may be reinterpreted as just another “opinion”. This issue is as much about the cultural context surrounding healthcare, perceptions of risk, and trust in expertise, as it is about vaccines themselves. For these reasons it is possible the minds of deeply invested anti-vaccine activists may never be changed; therefore it is for both the laypersons with genuine questions or worries about vaccines and the healthcare professionals who work to ease their fears that keeping abreast of the methods of persuasion discussed here is essential. Recognizing anti-vaccine tactics and tropes is imperative, for an awareness of the disingenuous arguments used to cajole and convert audiences gives individuals the tools to think critically about the information they encounter online. It is through such recognition that truly informed choices can then be made.

If there’s one thing I’ve tried to do on this blog, it’s to hammer away at each and every one of these common anti-vaccine tropes, as well as the not-so-common ones as well. The reason is that I don’t want them to be able to spread these tropes unopposed and unanswered, although the antivaccine movement is so protean and I have a day job that it seems like a Sisyphean task in which progress appears minimal. Yet the skeptic movement and physicians like Paul Offit appear to have had some effect, particularly in the wake of Andrew Wakefield’s downfall. At least anecdotally, I see less antivaccine propaganda making it into mainstream media reports, less blatant false “balance,” in which antivaccine propagandists are given equal voice with scientists as though there were two equivalent sides to the argument, and more skeptical articles that refute antivacicne myths and expose antivaccine autism quacks. Kata is right. The basis for such progress is the wide dissemination of good science about vaccines, refutation of the misinformation spread about vaccines, and shining the light of day on the various quacks who take advantage of the antivaccine movement. It’s not enough in and of itself, but it’s a start.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

217 replies on “Tactics and tropes of the antivaccine movement”

Nice to use this venue to promote an article from Vaccine. It deserves the wider audience and it should flush some anitvax fools out to the defense of the indefensible.

Evgeny Morozov wrote a piece at Slate posted yesterday that commented on the same paper, and proposed what I thought was a rather naive reaction to anti-vaxers focused on Google. He somehow manages to get through the whole piece without noticing that there are skeptics like yourself who have been on top of this issue for years.

I commented at length on his article (but not the Vaccine paper, which I can’t read due to lack of access) in a blog post over at my Skeptools blog.

As Orac well knows, Meryl Dorey of the anti-vaccine Australian Vaccination Network has now insisted that she is the real skeptic, coopting the term to make a fool of herself on Twitter by initiating the #skepticfail hashtag. Check it out. Something is awry in Doreyland, and it’s getting bizarre. Great post: it describes the AVN to a tee.

David, who is opposed to censorship, praises an article that calls for censorship.

NotTelling @3 — I don’t see any call for censorship in this. What I do see is a call for vigorous refutation of specious, scaremongering propaganda.

Incidentally, I have to share a zinger I let loose in the HuffPo comments on the actual pro-vax article that Orac touted a few days ago.

In the back-and-forth, one of the anti-vaxxers replied to me:

“It’s obvious that you don’t know anyone who was injured by vaccines.”

To which I replied,

“It’s a pretty safe bet that you don’t, either.”

I’ve read Peter Bowditch’s tweets about AVN and Meryl Dorey and he is quick to point out the complete hypocrisy when they whine about censorship. AVN stamps on any dissenting comments in its own forms but mewls pitifully when their platforms are taken away from them.

@NT I would love to have you point out the specific language in the article that calls for censorship. I see a call for a more rigorous refudiation of false information being spread by the anti vaccine online crowd.

What I do see is a call for vigorous refutation of specious, scaremongering propaganda.

But, to the antivaccine movement, “vigorous refutation of specious scaremongering propaganda” = “censorship.”

After all, the antivaccinationists, like all cranks, appear to believe that they should be able to spew their misinformation and pseudoscience without refutation. Any attempt at refutation is attacked as somehow “impinging on their freedom of speech.” Of course, the right to free speech does not mean the right not to be criticized for your speech. Antivaccine cranks seem profoundly unable to understand this.

Any attempt at refutation is attacked as somehow “impinging on their freedom of speech.”

Let’s not forget the pharma shill gambit which they regularly trot out in response to a measured, scientific refutation. Whenever I see this I can only think they are actually saying, “you know more than I do so you must have an inside line”.

Tim Bolen? TIM BOLEN??? Does this gang truly have no membership requirement other than despicability? It’s like the Super Best Friends Club, but for assholes.

But, to the antivaccine movement, “vigorous refutation of specious scaremongering propaganda” = “censorship.”

Substitute any extremist organization (to include birthers, religious fundamentalists, and the sovereign citizens bunch) for “antivaccine movement” and you’ve pretty well got it covered.

Orac,

Another good post. But, well, “Every time you use the term ‘Web 2.0’ God kills a kitten.”

the recent coopting of the term “denialism” for their own

Throwing opponents arguments back at them seems to be a common denialist tactic. Ken Ham wrote in 1987 that evolution was a religion. I’m sorry for going OT, but on a slightly related note could people check out this video I’ve made and give me any criticisms? I’m hoping to use it and others in talks about skepticism.

If there’s one thing I’ve tried to do on this blog, it’s to hammer away at each and every one of these common anti-vaccine tropes, as well as the not-so-common ones as well.

I’d like to see you try, infection promoter.

This pro-authoritarianism confusion between criticism and censorship was really annoying when Sarah Palin whined about people criticizing her statements. Not surprising that anti-vaxxers would take that trope and run with it.

If you say something, I have the right to criticize it. Criticism is also speech, just like the original speech was. To deny my right to criticize other people’s statements is to deny me my freedom of speech.

Th1Th2, can I ask you to do two things before the discussion proceeds further? Define the word “infection” as you’re using it here as precisely as you’re able, and explain why you characterize administering vaccinations, which have been clinically proven to reduce incidence of infection can reasonably be characterized instead as ‘infection promotion’.

Two simple requests, to ensure we’re on the same page.

Th1Th2, can I ask you to do two things before the discussion proceeds further?

I can “hammer away at” Orac in three letters: OPV.

“I’m not antivaccine; I’m pro-safe vaccines.” Yes, indeed. This one is the biggest, baddest, most irritating trope of all, repeated by everyone from Jenny McCarthy to J.B. Handley to Barbara Loe Fisher. A variant of this is to liken vaccines to cars and say that “I’m not ‘anti-car,’ I just want safer cars.” Not a good analogy. A better equivalent would be if they demanded absolute safety of cars and refused to use them unless GM, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota, Honda, et al swear that they’ll never be injured in a car crash.

IMO it goes further than that. Not only would the carmakers have to guarantee that no car crashes will ever occur, the car would also have to pay your mortgage.

This would be the analogy to the effective requirement that vaccines not only have no side effects, but also cure autism. After all, unless they do, the antivax loons will continue to exist that they’re causing autism.

So the best the entire movement has at this point to counter Orac’s thoughtful rigouprous daily posts on his uncensored blog are a few random thingies that come in to troll with random non-sequitur insults? This movement is in a sad state.

Define the word “infection” as you’re using it here as precisely as you’re able, and explain why you characterize administering vaccinations, which have been clinically proven to reduce incidence of infection can reasonably be characterized instead as ‘infection promotion’.

Here’s the reality: Primary infection either by natural infection or vaccination is clinically proven to reduce the incidence or subsequent infection. Now you know why vaccinators are the leading infection promoters.

If you say something, I have the right to criticize it. Criticism is also speech, just like the original speech was. To deny my right to criticize other people’s statements is to deny me my freedom of speech.

This is the last refuge of the indefensible position, the “I am entitled to my opinion (but you are not)” retort. It goes pretty much as you’ve described, someone says something completely idiotic, others criticize, and since they can’t defend their position, they assert protection from criticism on the ground it is their right to have and express their opinion.

Lost on them, however, is the fact that they are implying that the others should NOT express THEIR opinion, and that offering a critical opinion is just as valid as the original statement.

This is a very common scenario in discussion groups. So much so that I have asked to have it addressed in groups’ FAQs, something like, “Your opinion is welcome, but so is someone else’s opinion that your opinion is wrong.”

As I said, it is the last refuge of the indefensible position.

@Th1Th2:

khwakhwakhwakhwakhwakhwakhwakhwakhwakhwakhwakhwakhwakhwakhwakhwakhwakhwakhwakhwakhwakhwakhwakhwa
yup… you are absolutely right.

Please do not feed delusional, disease promoting, uneducated, unemployable, health care professional wannabe SFB troll. It needs “terminal disinefection”

Throwing opponents arguments back at them seems to be a common denialist tactic

Also known as the “I know you are, but what am I?” defense.

khwakhwakhwakhwakhwakhwakhwakhwakhwakhwakhwakhwakhwakhwakhwakhwakhwakhwakhwakhwakhwakhwakhwakhwa

a few random thingies that come in to troll with random non-sequitur insults? This movement is in a sad state.

yup… you are absolutely right.

The leaders of the anti-vaccine movement are masters of emotional manipulation and diversion: they capitalise on their audience’s fears and present them with exactly what they want. Blame is externalised ( pharma, the medical establishment) and their own noble suffering is held up for praise: this adds up to a net gain emotionally.

Right now, they are doing the PR equivalent of “churning” ( when a broker sells and re-sells purely to generate commissions): they make the rounds of all the antivax sites ( which have a great overlap of personnel) as well as alt med sympathisers’ sites , making it apppear as if there is more going on than there really is.

AJW is a *cause celebre* amongst the woo-meisters: the Progressive Radio Network had a 6 hour diatribe** featuring David Lewis ( Progressive Commentary Hour; last night @ 8pm-will be archived) also Lewis’ Whistleblower bud has a show there ( the so-called PRN is mentioned in AJW’s suit) . Natural News also talks up vaccines fears on a regular basis while neglecting to mention benefits.

So what’s in it for them? Plenty. Woo-meisters’ income depends upon public mistrust of the medical establishment ( and more recently, mistrust of the media and governments): vaccines represent a triumph of SBM- this cannot be represented accurately. If the audience accepted vaccines’ ( or ARVs for HIV/AIDS, other medical marvels) safety and efficacy in eradicating disease, *other* woo-meisterly claims ( and products) might be suspected as well, which would lead to a downturn in sales.

While the potentates of the empire of woo mislead their advocates into envisioning them as altrusitic, revolutionaries of science we can ( and will) reveal them as the salesmen ( and liars) they truly are.

** I didn’t listen in.

Here’s the reality: Primary infection either by natural infection or vaccination is clinically proven to reduce the incidence or subsequent infection. Now you know why vaccinators are the leading infection promoters.

Thingy knows “infection” is a scary word, so he insists that vaccination constitutes infection, even though most vaccines do not carry an intact infectious agent capable of reproducing in the body, which is required under the scientific definition of infection. This does not trouble Thingy, because he is an ardent practitioner of the Humpty Dumpty school of argumentation:

When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less

–“Lewis Carroll”

This is just a side note, but reading the troll comments made me think of last week’s 30 Rock episode. It was about “idiots” and among the list of idiots (frat guys, investment bankers, etc.) were “anti-vaccination crusaders”. Yeay Tina Fey!

Here’s the reality: Primary infection either by natural infection or vaccination is clinically proven to reduce the incidence or subsequent infection. Now you know why vaccinators are the leading infection promoters.

What in the world is this even supposed to mean, and what is the point intended to be? I can’t remember, are you another germ theory denialist?

Thingy knows “infection” is a scary word, so he insists that vaccination constitutes infection, even though most vaccines do not carry an intact infectious agent capable of reproducing in the body, which is required under the scientific definition of infection.

No problem. You also have vaccines that cause nonreplicating and nontransmissible infection.

You also have vaccines that cause nonreplicating and nontransmissible infection.

By definition, this is not infection.

Just another note; Wakefield’s malfeasance has gotten so widely known that Cracked.com is using him in jokes.

TH1,Th2, telling me you can “hammer away” with an acronym doesn’t comprise a definition for the term infection as you’re using in the phrase “infection promoter”–can you be more precies?

As for

Primary infection either by natural infection or vaccination is clinically proven to reduce the incidence or subsequent infection. Now you know why vaccinators are the leading infection promoters.

First, it’s good to know you agree that vaccines can effectively reduce the incidence of infection post immunization. Given that both natural and vaccine induced infection result in protection, but that the health risks attendent to ‘vaccine’ infection is orders of magnitude less than ‘natural’ infection, in the future you would be wise to accuse people of being ‘SAFE vaccine promoters’ and anti-vax propoenents as ‘UNSAFE infection promoters’.

Note that invasion and multiplication of microorganisms in body tissues (the medical definition of primary infection) isn’t necessary to generate protection against subsequent infection, and that we have long had the ability to generate vaccines which though efficacious do not incorporate live attenuated virus or bacteria and cannot cause infection.

May I conclude therefore that you have objection to including acellular vaccines in the routine schedule, as they cannot cause infection but still generate a protective immune response (e.g. tetanus, which incorporates the tetanus toxin itself; Gardisil, which incorporates non-infectious VLP’s; Hepatitus B, which incorporates only the viral envelope protein HBsAg, etc.?

When I worked in public health, I did receive calls from parents concerned with the safety of vaccines. Before Jenny McCarthy was promoted by Handley, before the pediatrician to the stars Dr. Jay had his shot at stardom…and before the yellow journalism tactics of AoA…there was the NVIC.

Way back then, Loe-Fisher had her own crude website with a pastiche of paste-up articles culled from various tabloid- type newspapers.

Back then IIRC, the main concern was the small “study” published by medical students supposedly “linking” infants who received post exposure prophylaxis with hepatitis B vaccine/HBIG at birth and a higher incidence of multiple sclerosis. A main concern for parents was thimerisol.

No sooner were these issues and “linkages” totally debunked, then we were dealing with Wakefield’s fraudulent study and his hero status with notorious anti-vax sites.

At AoA we have Boy Wonder Ace Reporter Jake Crosby…whose mother Nicole latched on to a new diagnosis for Jake, Asperger Syndrome. Jake’s one trick pony antics of stalking people in person are lauded by the AoA bloggers and their sycophants. Jake is no innocent kid being used by his handlers. He is a vicious, nasty person who has no inner constraints who seeks the approval of his supporters. He may graduate with an MPH-Epidemiology degree, but he will never be an epidemiologist, employed in the health care field.

When Jake is asked to leave meetings that he disrupts, it is the subject of many articles at AoA. Ginger Taylor on her blog, now composes indignant letters and sends them to the very people that Jake has stalked and actually posts these same letters on her blog.

I love how Dr. Jay, Ginger Taylor and the editors at AoA all think that the mere act of sending “indignant” rambling letters to popular media and mass media outlets, medical journals and those on their “enemies list”…are deserving of consideration and deserving of replies.

Tim Bolen? TIM BOLEN??? Does this gang truly have no membership requirement other than despicability? It’s like the Super Best Friends Club, but for assholes.

It’s not unexpected after all their numbers are dwindling, the media aren’t paying them any credible mind and their “experts” falling in disgrace so they have to take whatever they can get, even if it means dredging swamps.

Thingy, there’s no such thing as a ‘non-replicating infection’. Surely you’re not so confused as to consider ‘infectious’ and “immunogenic” as synonymous?

I don’t know exactly how I got there from here, I think I may clicked on one of the links under skepticism at the side, but I have just spent the last several hours reading about (and reading the debunking of) chemtrail theory. There goes my evening!

*shakes fist angrily at Orac*

To be vaguely on topic though – those guys seem to use the same set of tactics. Instead of cherrypicking studies it’s ranting about aluminium toxicity (wait, doesn’t that happen here?) but the moving of goalposts, censorship and attacking the opposition are identical.

I think Anna Kata has hit upon more than the antivax strategy, I think she’s hit upon the evasive thought patterns of conspiracy groups. The same patterns can be observed (for instance) in anthropogenic climate change deniers too.

But oh god the chemtrailers…. I think I may need brain bleach.

@ JGC

Thingy, there’s no such thing as a ‘non-replicating infection’. Surely you’re not so confused as to consider ‘infectious’ and “immunogenic” as synonymous?

You will be surprised.

Please don’t continue this inquiry. We already have a few 500+ threads on Thx special views on immunology.

Brandon,

By definition, this is not infection.

By definition, it’s infection.

Because inactivated vaccines do not replicate within the host, they cannot revert to a pathogenic variant and cause clinical disease.

It’s because inactivated/killed vaccines cause asymptomatic or subclinical infection.

Infection – Agent is present in  the host tissues without signs, symptoms or laboratory evidence of tissue damage.
Alternative Term: asymptomatic infection, subclinical infection

Surely you’re not so confused as to consider ‘infectious’ and “immunogenic” as synonymous?

JGC, be advised that there is no bottom to that particular well. (ie; as far as I can tell, s/he is at least that confused… if one is granting the benefit of the doubt on whether these are genuinely reasoned opinions, and not merely assuming that the Great Wall of objections is raised solely to fortify an assumed conclusion.)

— Steve

lilady:

I’ve never gone to Ginger’s blog before. After reading the front page I thought that I was reading something written by a ten-year-old. Once I saw that she’s an adult, and one with a child as well, I just sighed. If she needs a reason why anyone in the real medical field doesn’t take her seriously she needs to look no further than her own blog.

First, it’s good to know you agree that vaccines can effectively reduce the incidence of infection post immunization. Given that both natural and vaccine induced infection result in protection, but that the health risks attendent to ‘vaccine’ infection is orders of magnitude less than ‘natural’ infection, in the future you would be wise to accuse people of being ‘SAFE vaccine promoters’ and anti-vax propoenents as ‘UNSAFE infection promoters’.

Yeah, why don’t you tell that to those innocent children got VAPP-ed and VDPV-ed, well?

Note that invasion and multiplication of microorganisms in body tissues (the medical definition of primary infection) isn’t necessary to generate protection against subsequent infection, and that we have long had the ability to generate vaccines which though efficacious do not incorporate live attenuated virus or bacteria and cannot cause infection.

That’s not the medical definition of primary infection.

May I conclude therefore that you have objection to including acellular vaccines in the routine schedule, as they cannot cause infection but still generate a protective immune response (e.g. tetanus, which incorporates the tetanus toxin itself; Gardisil, which incorporates non-infectious VLP’s; Hepatitus B, which incorporates only the viral envelope protein HBsAg, etc.?

All vaccines you’ve mentioned above do cause asymptomatic or subclinical infection.

Conspicuous Carl,

Tim Bolen? TIM BOLEN??? Does this gang truly have no membership requirement other than despicability? It’s like the Super Best Friends Club, but for assholes.

I wish to indignantly object to this. This is unnecessarily insulting to assholes, which after all serve an important function, unlike Bolen.

Because they have been frequently cited for habitual censoring, AoA allows a few critical comments to pass through thought-control: Mike Stanton** discusses Dr Offit, correcting Jake and Jake responds in his usual fashion.

I wonder what the ratio of censored critical comments to accepted critical comments is? Any guesses? Bets?

** Woo hoo for Mike!

Thingy, there’s no such thing as a ‘non-replicating infection’. Surely you’re not so confused as to consider ‘infectious’ and “immunogenic” as synonymous?

Yeah, how could I possibly forget the rule?

General Rule

The more similar a vaccine is to the disease-causing form of the organism, the better the immune response to the vaccine.

Thingy, there’s no such thing as a ‘non-replicating infection’. Surely you’re not so confused as to consider ‘infectious’ and “immunogenic” as synonymous?

Ah, but you see, in Thingy’s world, words mean what he wants them to mean, not what they are normally understood to mean, or what the definitions in those elitist textbooks tell you. This is classic crank reasoning:

Problem: Vaccines protect against infection. And infection is a scary word, based upon the properties of infections (as they are normally understood)–there is something harmful in the body growing and reproducing, and causing damage and death. People associate infection with things like polio and smallpox that kill, maim, and cripple huge numbers of people, which makes them willing to accept the much smaller risks of vaccination.

Solution: We’ll just redefine “vaccination” as an infection. That way, we can muddy the waters any time anybody brings up the fact that vaccines protect against infection, and we can leverage the fear that people feel toward real infections, and hope that maybe some of it will rub off on vaccines.

Thingy is a bit clumsier about it than most, but this sort of misleading language is the basic stock-in-trade of the antivaccine movement (see, e.g. the “toxin” gambit, in which even nutrients such as amino acids end up getting relabeled as “toxins”).

Vaccines protect against disease. I think this is an important distinction.

It’s because inactivated/killed vaccines cause asymptomatic or subclinical infection.

This is a mindbogglingly stupid claim. A subclinical infection still requires living organisms.

JGC (#40):

“Thingy, there’s no such thing as a ‘non-replicating infection’. Surely you’re not so confused as to consider ‘infectious’ and “immunogenic” as synonymous?”

Boy, are you in for a surprise!

Th1Th2 (#43):

“It’s because inactivated/killed vaccines cause asymptomatic or subclinical infection.”

Yep, we’re not making that up. Th1Th2 actually thinks that a killed/inactivated virus or bacteria – even isolated viral or bacterial proteins made by recombinant organisms – cause “infections”.

Truth is stranger than fiction, but Th1Th2 is stranger than both.

Prometheus

I wonder if thingy considers death by stabbing dieing from a non-replicating steel infection. Might explain a lot of it’s iatrogenic death numbers.

Also keep in mind that, in the Thing’s version of reality, no child would ever walk on the grass when there is a sidewalk available. And any exposure to any antigen is necessarily due to gross parental negligence. And rooms which have had a measles patient in them within the past hour are immediately identifiable from a distance, so exposure can be trivially avoided.

Therefore vaccines are useless because the transmission of any infectious disease can be completely and reliably avoided by exercising normal care in not deliberately exposing oneself to them.

I really wish I were making this up, but these are things the Thing has actually claimed in the past. Truly, it is either the most incredible Poe in the history of the universe (past or future, and all parallel timelines included; The Doctor couldn’t find anything better) or someone who is profoundly unhinged and disconnected from reality.

See, this sort of conversation is where the “nailing jello to the wall” metaphor really applies to Thingy. You can chase her around all day trying to get her to stick to one definition of a word, but the second you think you’ve got her down, and try to argue with her using the one definition you’ve stuck her on…. Bam, there she goes again.

Just heard a podcast from Things you missed in history class about Thingy’s OPV. It actually covered the polio epidemics that spurred the development of vaccines. Salk & Sabin hit on 2 different routes. IPV was more expensive and (slightly) lower in risk. OPV was way cheaper and conferred some protection to as yet unvaccinated populations. As such, OPV was the foremost choice to be used worldwide to begin the eradication of all polio which is now almost complete, Thingy notwithstanding.

Sorry I couldn’t immediately find the podcast link as I am usually many weeks behind. It may still be on iTunes.

nastylittlehorse @41 — If you liked chemtrails, you’d love HAARP, another of the great gods in the crank pantheon. There is a real HAARP, just as there are real airplanes, but the powers attributed to it are at least as implausible as the chemtrail theory.

As such, OPV was the foremost choice to be used worldwide to begin the eradication of all polio which is now almost complete, Thingy notwithstanding.

Oh, great, now it’s time to be treated to the “exit strategy” subspiel again.

palindrom — and now the Russians are suggesting that HAARP brought down Phobos-Grunt. Except it went nowhere near Alaska, where HAARP is situated, so it sort of changed to suggesting that a radar facility NASA uses for studying asteroids from Kwajalein Atoll was to blame, except it wasn’t in use at the time…. Yeah.

I’ve met a number of HAARP nuts before. It’s one of the standard crank conspiracies; they don’t understand why the USAF would be interested in the auroras and the ionosphere, so they figure it must really be something else. Funny thing is, there’s a real conspiracy associated with a project of almost the same name: HARP. Google “Gerald Bull” for more on that one; it’s a more interesting story, but more along the James Bond line than the Area 51 line.

At least HAARP has sent QSLs. Of course, before that there was Project ELF (Project Sanguine for those who like to really hoke things up) to freak out about. And thus one winds up with stuff like this on PrisonPlanet:

The worlds biggest antenna is part of the earth itself ! They can use ULF waves to turn actual roack and granite into a massive array ! I kid you not read this i urge you ! Do you all see what they could be doing with a transmitter as big as haarp et al? They could be turning the entire planet into a transmitter

THE ENTIRE PLANET!

Thingy @47,

There’s an old adage that goes “While you’re certainly entitled to your own opinion, you’re not entitled to your own facts.” This post makes it clear you’re speaking a language other than English, where your preferred definition of “primary infection” is different than that of the rest of the world, and that you inhabit a fantasy world where a vaccine which incorporaates only a viral surface antigen is capable of somehow causing a “subclinical infection” (however you idiosyncratically elect to define that term).

I’m afraid I must agree with the opinion of all the others advising me to ignore your posts and conclude its impossible to have a meaningful discussion with you.

You simply can’t fix crazy.

Sorry to wander, but I have to share this thing I just found out: Twenty five years ago my husband was doing his post-doc at the NIAID (National Institute for allergies and infectious diseases) in Hamilton, MT. They had a visitor, a young up-and-coming researcher, whom we invited to dinner. We were in our poor years, and sat on folding chairs at a makeshift plywood table, with our 3 pre-schoolers. This guy was so pleasant, so well spoken, that he left a mark on me all of these years.

I was telling my husband about this post, as I often do, and he sat up and said “Paul Offit? That’s the guy we had to dinner up in Montana!” I remembered his name was Paul, but forgot the “Offit”.

So while I am not a scientist like y’all, I did have Paul Offit to dinner!

Back to the conversation.

Incidentally, I have to share a zinger I let loose in the HuffPo comments on the actual pro-vax article that Orac touted a few days ago.

@palindrom: You know that Smith is plainly Blackheart, right?

> Th1Th2 actually thinks that a killed/inactivated
> virus or bacteria – even isolated viral or
> bacterial proteins made by recombinant organisms
> – cause “infections”.
>
> Posted by: Prometheus

“Cause?” No, it is much crazier than that.

th1th2 is not just saying that vaccines cause infections–that would be incorrect, but not insane. He is saying that the presence of the vaccine itself qualifies for his concept of an infection, and he freaks out just as he would if he had contracted a disease. His objection to vaccines is based on drug junkie get-the-bugs-off-of-me aesthetics.

Some nut on Prison Planet asked,
> Do you all see what they could be doing
> with a transmitter as big as haarp et al?

[raises hand]
Sending a coherent signal above the noise level for a pathetically inadequate fraction of the distance required to reach another star?

Or maybe sending a signal many times further than is required to reach any of the black helicopters operating on Earth?

Narad @64 – “You know that Smith is plainly Blackheart, right?”

No, I didn’t know that. I spend most of my online efforts on the climate denialist struggle, where I have deeper expertise, with the occasional foray into battling crank theories in physics and astronomy; vaccine denialism is a sideline, so I don’t know these characters intimately.

But does anyone know what happened to the indomitable Sheldon 101 over on HP? He was a real stalwart, and then he disappeared. I fear that this did not turn out well for him.

> they have to take whatever they can get,
> even if it means dredging swamps.
>
> Posted by: Science Mom

I guess so, but this seemed like such a gratuitous crossover episode. It is as if they have Boba Fett hanging out on the deck of a Romulan warbird, and that is somehow acceptable because both franchises have a loose science-fictiony theme even though their styles and technology suggest incompatible universes.

Prometheus wrote:

Yep, we’re not making that up. Th1Th2 actually thinks that a killed/inactivated virus or bacteria – even isolated viral or bacterial proteins made by recombinant organisms – cause “infections”.

Truth is stranger than fiction, but Th1Th2 is stranger than both.

Last week it was approving of slaughtering infected human populations as a means of disease control. It apparently thinks killing people is preferable to vaccinating them.

@ palindrom: I saw your post at Ho-Po. I think we did a commendable job of handling Stagmom and the Anne Dachel bot.
Sheldon 101 seems to have disappeared from Ho-Po.

Another article that appeared on the AoA website recently was about a three year old girl with Wolf-Hirschhorn Syndrome, whose parents have embarked on campaign to smear a doctor and CHOP for refusing to consider the child as a candidate for a kidney transplant.

As we all know, Dr. Paul Offit is the medical director of the Infectious Diseases Department at CHOP, so this child’s situation was the “perfect” opportunity for AoA to crusade against CHOP.

There are two blogs up at Ho-Po. One is written by a mother of an autistic child (“Everyone Deserves a New Kidney”) and the other blog by Lisa Belkin, former NY Times science writer (“Denying a Transplant to a Retarded Child?).

The mother of the autistic child is adamant that the child was denied the transplant due solely to be classified as mentally retarded. Lisa Belkin, who has actually observed the deliberations of hospital transplant committees, defends the decision of the CHOP committee.

I have posted twice on Belkin’s blog. The majority of comments on both blogs seem to support the decision of CHOP.

Clearly the attitude of the parents of the child, the statements that they made and the lack of transparency by disclosing other medical problems that their child has, prevented the physicians at CHOP from defending their decision.

It apparently thinks killing people is preferable to vaccinating them.

Greatest hits time:

I don’t think rinderpest was ever eradicated hence you call people “herd”. Make sense?

Thingy also seems to believe there is a foolproof way of determining who’s infected with disease, and all you need to do is avoid those people. Thingy never tells us precisely what this is, and when you try to bring up someone infected with, say, measles, Thingy questions whether they have it. Also, Thingy said a child who died of whooping cough died of “iatrogensis” because the child just had a cold and didn’t need any doctors.

Some of the commenters on this blog must be programmers, or at least scripters? Can’t one of you code the equivalent of the FF Greasemonkey killfile script for Chrome? You could even name it Th1Th2, it would be appropriate.

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